Cox loses $25 million verdict in music piracy case

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that Cox Communications must pay $25 million to music labels for willfully letting its customers pirate songs.

The verdict came after a week-long trial after U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady denied a request from Cox for a summary judgement. Judge O'Grady ruled last month that the ISP didn't qualify for safe harbor protections under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because it didn't do enough to stop its customers from pirating songs. 

The suit was filed by music label BMG, which has rights to top artists including David Bowie, Bruno Mars and Frank Ocean. BMG filed the suit after its agent Rightscorp detected more than 1.8 million instances of infringement in connection with 1,397 copyrighted works. 

"We are unhappy with the decision, will review the ruling in detail and are considering our options, including appeal," said Cox statement provided to FierceCable

"We believe this decision sends a message to ISPs that they have a responsibility to act upon and limit the massive copyright infringement using their networks that has been brought to their attention by copyright owners," said BMG's counsel, Steptoe & Johnson partner Michael Allan, in a statement. 

The ruling and the verdict, of course, hold relevance to other MSOs, which also must deal with customers infringing on copyrighted material.

In the case of Cox, Judge O'Grady cited the allegedly willful aspect of Cox's conduct, noting that -- in an effort to sustain its customer base -- the ISP went through proper steps under the DMCA to boot infringing customers off its service, but then let them right back on.

In his memorandum, the judge included damning emails from Jason Zabek, Cox's manager of customer abuse operations.

"As we move forward in this challenging time we want to hold on to every subscriber we can," Zabek allegedly said. "With this in mind if a customer is terminated for DMCA, you are able to reactivate them after you give them a stern warning about violating our AUP and the DMCA. We must still terminate in order for us to be in compliance with safe harbor but once termination is complete, we have fulfilled our obligation."

It is believed that Cox will appeal several of Judge O'Grady's pre-trial rulings.

As the Hollywood Reporter notes, Cox is also being sued by its insurance company, which is trying to duck the legal bill.

For more:
- read this Eastern District Court of Virginia verdict
- read this Hollywood Reporter story
- read this DSL Reports story

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Judge: Cox willfully refused to shut down repeat music pirates
Cox failed to stop music copyright infringement, judge rules
Comcast gets renewed heat for injecting copyright warnings